Part Two: The Madness Chapter Fourteen
John Five was waiting for Matthew outside the Thorn Bush when he got there just before seven. It was the beginning of a fine night in New York. The stars were showing, the breeze was warm, candles burned in the street-corner lamps, and a man with a bloody nose sat in front of the tavern throwing curses at everyone who passed by.
"Damn you!" hollered the man at Matthew. "Think you've got me whipped, do youi" Obviously he was drunk as well as battered. He struggled to get to his feet, but John Five placed a boot at his shoulder and nonchalantly shoved him back down on his ass.
Beyond the door with its five triangular glass panes-three of them cracked-and a depiction of thorns and leaves carved into the wood, the place was lit by dirty lanterns hanging from the ceiling beams. The smoke from a thousand pipes had turned the beams as black as printer's ink. a current haze thickened the air. The front room, where the bar was prominent, held tables where sat a dozen or so men all in various degrees of intoxication while feathered and buckled women swooped and cawed around them. Matthew had seen this picture before, during his nights of tracking Eben ausley. He understood that the more attractive of these ladies-the better dressed and better mannered, if manners counted for anything-came from Polly Blossom's rose-colored house on Petticoat Lane, while some of the others who seemed unkempt and desperate had come over on the ferry from New Jersey.
at once four women aged probably from seventeen to forty-seven converged upon John Five and Matthew with lip-licking expressions of seduction on their painted faces so ridiculous that Matthew might have laughed had he not been a gentleman. anyway, business was business and the competition was fierce. Still these ladies knew who was buying and who was not; when John Five shook his head and Matthew said, "No, thank you," they turned away almost as one, shrugged their bared shoulders, and life went on.
Now the noise of men yelling came from a second room. Matthew knew the gambling fiends were in their element. a drowsy-looking barmaid carrying a pitcher of wine approached, and John Five said, "We're going all the way back. My friend wants some supper."
"Mutton pie with turnips and beef brains with boiled potatoes," she answered, reciting the evening's fare.
"May I have mutton pie with boiled potatoesi" Matthew asked, and she speared him a look that told him he might get what he wanted and then again he might not.
"Two glasses of wine," John added. "The port."
She went off to the kitchen and Matthew followed John into the gambling room, where the smoke of Virginia's finest was truly dense. The men in here at first appeared to be more shadows than flesh, either sitting at tables where cards were being slapped down or hovering over boards where dice clattered as they were thrown toward a series of painted numbers. Then another uproar went off like an explosion and someone slammed a fist against wood and yelled, "Fuck it all, Hallock! Everything on the black!"
Matthew wondered if some madhouses-bedlams, as they were called-weren't more sane than this. Certainly more peaceful. The yelling died down, the cards were turned or the bones were tossed and then again the throat of Hell seemed to open to allow out a quick hot breath of chaos. Matthew thought that for some of these men winning or losing was not really the attraction; it was that chaotic instant of joy or terror, both made so pure in their intensity that all else of life paled in their shadows.
"Look here!" someone said to Matthew's left as he was going through a group of men in the gambling room. "It's Corbett, isn't iti"
Matthew looked in the direction of the voice and found himself standing alongside a dice table in the presence of the two young lawyers Joplin Pollard and andrew Kippering. Both had ale tankards in their hands and appeared a bit woozy. Of special notice was the dark-haired and not unattractive prostitute of about twenty years of age hanging on to Kippering's left arm, her ebony eyes deep-sunken and vacant as the burned-out houses on Sloat Lane.
"See, andrewi" Pollard said, with a wide grin. "It is him. He. Whatever. The one and only, ehi"
"I am who I am, I suppose," Matthew replied.
"Good man!" Pollard hit his sore shoulder with the tankard. Worse than that, he slopped some ale on the light-blue shirt Matthew wore, which was the last clean shirt in his possession. "always be who you are. Eh, andrewi"
"always," Kippering said, with a lift of his tankard and then a long drink. The prostitute pressed forward and Kippering obliged her by pouring some of the stuff down her throat as well.
"and who's this, theni" When Pollard motioned toward John Five, Matthew was able to step back and avoid another spillage. "Hold a minute!" Pollard turned toward the dice table and the men who were wagering there. "I'm in on this one too, damn it! Three shillings on anchor!"
Matthew saw they were playing the popular game of Ship, Captain, and Crew, in which the shooter had five throws with a pair of dice to come up with a six, five, and four in that order, which stood for the ship, captain, and crew. Others could bet on any variation of success or failure. Pollard had just wagered on "anchor," which was a three to show up in the first throw.
"My friend John Five," Matthew said when Pollard had returned his attention. "John, Misters Joplin Pollard and andrew Kippering, both of whom are attorneys."
"First throw! Crew without a ship and an ace!" came the call from the table, with its resulting moment of chaos. Four and one. Then the wagering began once more at the pitch of frenzy as silver coins were tossed into an iron pot.
Pollard just shrugged. "To hell with it. John Five, did you sayi"
"Yes sir." John was a bit distracted, as the prostitute had begun chewing on Kippering's left ear. "I've seen you both around town."
"You're Constance Wade's beau," Kippering said, trying carefully to get his ear free.
"Yes sir, I am. May I ask how you know about thati"
"I don't think it's a secret. I was speaking to the reverend just lately and he mentioned your name, in passing."
"are you a friend of the familyi"
"Double anchors!" cried the caller. Once more the gamblers hollered or cursed and the entire room with its whirling smoke, brays of laughter, and shouts for liquid courage made Matthew feel he was on the pitching deck of a rudderless ship. He had noted that the prostitute's left hand was crawling down toward Kippering's crotch.
In the tumult of noise before Kippering's response to John's question, Matthew had the chance to sum up what he knew about the two attorneys. Joplin Pollard-boyish and clean-shaven, his reddish-blond hair close-cropped and his brown eyes large and sparkling with good humor-was in his early thirties and had come to the colony in 1698 to join the older and established lawyer Charles Land. Hardly a year later Land had inherited a large sum of money from a family estate in England and returned to the home country with his wife to become, as Matthew understood from Magistrate Powers, a rich art patron and dabbler in politics.
Thus Pollard-a "green gent," Powers had called him-had been forced to sink or swim in his own firm, and had hired Bryan Fitzgerald from a Boston partnership soon afterward. He was obviously doing well enough now, though, as attested by his taste in his fine light-gray linen suit, his ruffled royal-blue cravat and expensive black boots polished to a gloss.
Completing the trio of blazing youth was Kippering, who'd come from England two years ago with an excellent reputation as a business lawyer but who had, as the magistrate had heard from Pollard, dallied with one banker's wife too many and paid for his sins by expulsion from the gentlemen's club. It was assumed he was doing penance in the colony until he might attempt a comeback in the grander arena, but at the ripe age of twenty-eight Kippering-lean and wolfishly handsome, two days past a shave, a comma of thick black hair fallen over his forehead and his eyes so icy blue the expression from them was nearly fearsome-was obviously not ready for the embrace of a leather armchair when there were painted dollies prancing about and the wine flowed smooth and dark from tavern casks. Neither was he in a hurry to join the best-dressed list, for his plain black suit, simple white shirt, and scuffed black shoes had seen better years.
Kippering caught the young woman's hand before it reached his jewels and firmly but gently confined it with his own. "I've given advice to the reverend. Not anything concerning his daughter. But he felt compelled for whatever reason to inform me of the impending situation."
"You mean our marriagei"
Kippering shuddered. "Please restrain the profanity."
"This isn't a place the good reverend might approve of for his future son-in-law," said Pollard, as his mouth spread into a sly smile. "Do you thinki"
"Probably not," Matthew spoke up, "but the food's good and cheap. I've eaten here many times. Besides, my friend and I are seeking privacy, which I believe can be found in the back room."
"Of course. I would inquire what might be so furtively private between a magistrate's clerk and a reverend's future son-in-law, visiting the back room of a den such as this, but then I'd be over-stepping my bounds, wouldn't Ii"
"Come off your horse, Joplin!" Kippering scowled. "The young man's not married yet! Since he's so determined to go down the road to disaster, he ought to be praised for his courage. Hell, I wouldn't have the guts to ask that crow for his daughter's hand. Would youi"
"Sir!" said John, with a heat in his voice that made Matthew think violence might be imminent. "I'd ask you not to refer to Reverend Wade in that disrespectful manner."
"apologies, no harm meant." Kippering lifted his tankard. "It's the ale talking."
"Yes," said Pollard, "and that loquacious ale is going to get you skewered someday. But listen, Corbett. about Robert Deverick. He was my client, you know."
"Our client," Kippering amended.
"Yes, our client. and I might add our best client. You saw him stretched out there in the street. Terrible way for a man of his means to go."
"a terrible way for any man to go," Matthew said. He winced as another holler and harumpdedoo from the dice table blasted his eardrums. across the way, someone was cursing a foul blue streak at one of the card games.
"any ideas about iti" Pollard asked. "I mean, your being so fresh on the scene, according to Lillehorne. and since you seemed to have such an opinion on the enforcement of law before our dandy new governor."
"No ideas other than the obvious. I would ask if you knew of any enemies Mr. Deverick had." It was a shot in the dark since he doubted Deverick would have greeted an enemy with a handshake, but it was at least a starting-point.
"We've already covered that one with Lillehorne." Kippering was trying to hold the prostitute back from going through his coat pockets; it was like trying to get a firm grip on a weasel. "Deverick has had his business enemies, yes. In London, though. He's had supply problems from some unreliable merchants whom we've had to threaten with lawsuits, but nothing went beyond the point of sword-rattling. That's all."
"There must be something else."
Pollard said, "You must be wondering then if Dr. Godwin had enemies, if indeed as I understand it the same maniac murdered both men. But then again, does a maniac need a reason for murderi" He answered his own question: "absolutely not!"
"I'm wondering," Matthew said, "if the Masker may be not so much a maniac as a clever individual hiding a motive."
"What kind of motivei" Kippering asked, though his attention was divided. Being unsuccessful at looting her companion's pockets, the prostitute now began to kiss and lick his neck.
"I have no idea, but I'd like to know if there is some connection between Dr. Godwin and Mr. Deverick. Do you know of anyi"
another uproar came from the gamblers, some bitter loser slammed a hand down on a card table, a prostitute wearing a high crimson wig and white facepaint slid past Matthew like a jungle cat and pinched his behind on the way, and then Pollard turned back toward the dice game and shouted over the noise of wagering, "Don't roll those 'til I get my bet in! Who's got the throwi Wyndhami"
"I can't think of a connection," said Kippering, who had his hands full with his squirmy minx. "They weren't doctor and patient, if that's what you're assuming. Neither was Dr. Godwin a client of ours."
Matthew shrugged. "I didn't think it would be that simple, anyway. We'd best go. Good evening to you."
"Evening to you both," he managed to respond. "and good luck with...whatever your business might be." Then he got a lockhold on the girl and also turned to rejoin the hubbub.
The room at the back of the Thorn Bush was at the end of a short corridor where a sign was posted on the wall reading No Gambling, No Women allowed. It was the tavern's stab at a "dining-room" for gentlemen where business might be discussed in relative quiet. True, the noise from the gamblers still carried in, but it was at least tolerable. The room was dimly lit by a few lanterns. Three other men sat together at one of the six tables, which were set far apart for the sake of privacy. The trio were all puffing long clay churchwarden pipes and were wreathed with smoke, their conversations serious and muted; none of them even glanced up as the new arrivals entered. Matthew and John Five sat at a table on the opposite side of the room, furthermost from the door.
Before they got completely settled, the barmaid came in with their glasses of port and left again. Matthew spent a moment rubbing what looked like a dried clump of food off the rim of his glass. He hoped it wasn't the beef brains.
John Five took a long drink of his wine and then said, "I couldn't figure who else to go to, Matthew. When Constance told me, I said she shouldn't be worryin'. I said things would work themselves out, but...I don't know, Matthew. It's not gettin' any better."
"You ought to start at the beginning," Matthew advised.
"She says it started back about a month ago. Late May, early June. Her father always liked to walk, around sundown. Said it helped him breathe. She never took a mind to it. But all of a sudden he was goin' out later and later. Now it's after ten o'clock most nights. and then when he gets back, he's..." John hesitated, obviously uncomfortable with this direction.
"Go on," Matthew urged. "He is whati"
"Different," John said. He swirled the port around in his glass and drank again. "Constance said he was...is...dark-spirited when he comes back. Does that make any sense to youi"
"Does she mean he's angryi Melancholyi"
"That, I guess. If it means sad. Or just...I don't know...like he didn't want to go where he went, but that he had to. Listen, Matthew." John looked across the table at his friend, the expression in his eyes at once steadfastly serious and almost pleading. "None of this can get out. I know many around here think William Wade's a stiff-backed Bible-thumper, but he's never been anythin' but kind to me. Constance loves him dearly, and accordin' to her there could be no better father. and he's a smart man, too. Not just about religious things, either. He goes fishin' every chance he gets, did you know thati"
"Yep. Got his own favorite spot up at the end of Wind Mill Lane. I've gone with him, of a Saturday mornin'. He can talk about anythin' you please. He can read the weather, and he's raised a garden back behind their house that would knock Granny Coquer flat down."
"Reallyi" That was impressive, since at eighty-three years Granny Coquer-who had been all of fifteen when she arrived in Dutch New amsterdam-was growing tomatoes, corn, beans, and melons that brought a mob to her stall at the farmers' market.
"What I'm sayin' is, Reverend Wade is not one of those wild men who pass through town from time to time, yellin' 'fear God' at the top of their lungs and robbin' every Peter, Paul, and Mary they can get their touch on. Do you know the type I meani"
Matthew nodded. He very well knew that type, by the name of Exodus Jerusalem.
"William Wade is a decent man," John said. "If he's in some kind of trouble, it's not of his own makin'."
"Troublei" Matthew frowned. "Why do you put it that wayi"
"Somethin's chewin' him up," came the grim response. "Constance says he can hardly sleep at night anymore. She says she hears him get up from his bed and walk in his room. Just pacin' the boards, back and forth. Wait...here's your food."
The barmaid had entered again, carrying a tray on which sat a brown bowl. She put it down in front of Matthew, gave him a wooden fork and spoon, and said, "Coin or crediti"
"On my bill, Rose," John Five said, and she shrugged as if such things mattered not a whit and exited the room, leaving Matthew with the distinct impression that this Thorn Bush's Rose was indeed a prickly specimen.
In the bowl was a muddy-looking stew that contained elements impossible to identify. Matthew stirred the stuff around with his spoon but was unable to determine if it was mutton pie, beef brains, boiled potatoes, turnips, some combination of everything, or a cook's surprise. He was hungry enough to try it, though, and found with a small sip that whatever it was it was smoky and peppery and really very good. So score minus for presentation, but double plus for taste. He started in on it with relish, indicating by a nod for John to continue.
"Pacin' his room, as I said," John went on. "One night Constance thought she heard him cry out in a bad dream. Then another night...she just plain heard him give a sob that near broke her heart."
"I assume she's asked him what the trouble might bei"
"She's not exactly used that word, but she has asked. The one time he'd talk about it at all, he said everythin' was goin' to be fine, soon enough."
"'Soon enough'i That was his statementi"
John nodded. "accordin' to Constance, I mean. She told me he sat her down, took both her hands, looked her in the eyes, and said he knew he'd been actin' peculiar, but she wasn't to worry. He said it was his problem, and he had to solve it his own way. He asked her to trust him."
Matthew took a drink of his port. "But obviously she feels this 'problem' hasn't gotten any betteri That he's still worried to the point of distractioni"
"and he's still goin' out late at night, too. Take what happened on Tuesday night."
Matthew stopped eating. "Deverick's murderi"
"No, not that. On Tuesday night, near eleven o'clock, there came a knock at the reverend's door. He told Constance to stay in her room, and he went to see who was callin' at such an hour. She heard him talkin' to somebody, then he got his street clothes on and told her not to worry but that he had to go out. and she said his eyes were scared, Matthew. She said it was a terrible thing, to see such fear on her father's face." John drank down the rest of his port and looked as if he wished he had another full glass. "When he left the house...Constance went to a window and looked out, east along Maiden Lane. She saw the reverend walkin' with someone else carryin' a lantern. a man, she thought. It was a man's voice she'd heard at the door. an old man, she thought it might be. But up ahead, waitin' with a lamp at the corner of Maiden Lane and Smith Street, was a woman."
"a woman," Matthew repeated. "She was sure of thati"
"She could see the woman's gown and bonnet, but she couldn't make out the face."
"Hm," Matthew said, for it was all he could think to say. He was putting together in his mind what might have happened that night. Reverend Wade and his daughter lived in a small house on Maiden Lane between Nassau and Smith streets. artemis Vanderbrocken had knocked on the door to summon the reverend, who'd hurriedly dressed and left the house. Wade had been walking south on Smith Street in the company of Vanderbrocken and the unknown woman when behind them came the shout from Phillip Covey. Or perhaps not behind them, but nearly beside them. Perhaps they were just passing when Covey began his cry of alarm, and that was why they'd been so quick on the spot.
Interesting, Matthew thought. What had happened to the womani
"after Reverend Wade had gone," John continued, "it wasn't long before Constance heard commotion goin' on and a bell ringin'. That was at the murder scene, I suppose. She was afraid to go out. She got on her knees and prayed that her father was all right, but she couldn't get back to sleep. He came home maybe an hour or so later and went straight to his room."
"Did she ask where he'd beeni"
"No. She wants him to tell her in his own time, and she does trust him, Matthew."
"I see. So Constance has no idea you're meeting with mei"
"No idea," John said.
"May I ask then, why are you here with mei Isn't this a betrayal of her trust for her fatheri"
John didn't answer. He cast his eyes down. "I love Constance, Matthew. With all my heart. I don't want her to be hurt. I don't want her to know the bad things of life. The ugly things. If I can shield her from those things-or delay her from bein' hurt, even by her own father-I'm goin' to do my best. If he's mixed up in somethin' he shouldn't be, I want to know first before Constance does. So maybe I can soften it for her. and maybe...I can help Reverend Wade get free of whatever it is, if I only can find out." He nodded, his eyes still lowered and dark in their sockets. "If that's betrayin' a trust, to save a girl's heart from bein' broke and her soul from bein' scarred...I'll do it gladly, many times over."
Matthew now had the full picture. "You don't wish to follow Reverend Wade yourself, in case you might be seen, so you want me to follow him."
"I do." John looked up, hopefully. "I can pay a little money, if that would suit you."
Matthew finished his wine but did not respond. He was thinking that if he did follow the reverend he might well discover where he and Vanderbrocken were going and why they'd lied about heading toward different destinations the night of Deverick's murder.
"What sayi" John prodded.
Matthew cleared his throat. "Do you know if the reverend went out last nighti"
"Constance said he stayed home. That's the thing, see. He's not stayed home these last three weeks two nights in a row. Even when it's rained, he's gone out. That's why she thinks he'll be goin' out tonight, most likely between nine-thirty and ten."
"But she can't be positive of the night, or of the timei"
"No, I guess not."
Matthew didn't have to consider very long before he said, "all right. I'll try for tonight, between nine-thirty and ten. If I have to, I'll wait until ten-thirty, but after that I'm going home." He knew he'd stay until eleven or so, but he didn't wish to sound too eager.
"Thank you, Matthew. God bless you for helping with this thing. Do you want some moneyi"
"No. I'll do it to show I don't hold a grudge." and also, Matthew thought, to clear up his own questions about Wade and Vanderbrocken. But the woman was a new piece to the puzzle. First of all, who was shei Secondly, why had she waited at the corner of Maiden Lane and Smith Street instead of approaching the house with Dr. Vanderbrockeni
The barmaid returned with more wine, but Matthew had what he needed and was ready to go. On the way to the front where John would sign his bill of credit they went again through the gambling room, which with the passage of half-an-hour had become even more smoke-filled, crowded, and boisterous. The prostitutes in gaudy gowns and dyed wigs, their faces all but obscured by white powder, red rouge, and dark eyeshadow, roamed amid the tables seeking stacks of coins, the men who owned them being only obstacles to a purpose. Matthew didn't see Pollard or Kippering in the room any longer, but they might have been there and just moved to a different table.
Matthew and John Five were about halfway through the room when their progress was impeded by two heavily made-up dollies who seemed to appear through the smoke alongside the dice table intent on physical ambush. One was an elder the size of Hiram Stokely and the other was a thin wraith who might have been thirteen years old. Their grins, showing black and crooked teeth, were frightening to behold. John Five held off the big-bellied one with a forearm. When the child reached for Matthew he sidestepped, got around two men who were standing in the way, and then he took a blow to the stomach when he saw Eben ausley sitting at a card table to his left, within dice-throwing distance.
ausley sat in the company of three other men, but Matthew didn't recognize any of them as the stomperboys who'd gotten the better of him on Monday night. The gamblers were focused on the play as cards were being dealt. Matthew noted that ausley's pile of silver was the smallest of the lot, and sweat sparkled on the man's jowls and forehead. His white wig was crooked.
as Matthew watched, more transfixed by the enemy's presence rather than interested in the game, he saw the gamblers throw down their coins and cards, there was a great hurrah from one of the men, and ausley scowled as if a snake had crawled out of the ale tankard on his right. ausley blew out a big breath that might have been disgust or despair, reached for his omnipresent black notebook with its gold-ornamented cover, opened it, and began to scribble there with his string-wrapped pencil. Marking his losses, Matthew thought. May they ever increase.
Suddenly, like a feral beast sensing it was being observed, ausley looked up from his notebook directly into Matthew's eyes. They stared at each other through the shifting smoke while at other tables cards were played and dice tossed, winners shouted and losers cursed, prostitutes whispered and even a brown dog scurried around trying to steal a scrap.
Then, just as abruptly, ausley dismissed him, finished his note-writing, closed the book with a little slap, and pounded the table with his hammy fist for the next round to be dealt.
Matthew also turned away. He got out to the front room, where John Five had just signed his credit for the tavern-keeper.
"I thought I'd lost you in that crowd," John said. "are you all righti"
"I am," Matthew answered, "but I could use some fresh air." He walked onto the Broad Way, his mind now turning from Eben ausley to the task he needed to perform tonight, and John Five joined him, oblivious to the small and silent scene that had just played out.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com